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Jerry Brown Plans Ballsy Game of Chicken with California Voters

Jerry Brown wants to cut public services so deeply that even middle class Californians start to think raising taxes makes sense.

Jerry Brown was sworn in yesterday as Governor of California, and we're starting to get clues about his strategy for fixing the state's finances. In short he wants to establish budget cuts that are so strict and broad that they shock Califronians into raising taxes.

So what's going to get cut? Nearly everything. Brown wants to shrink social service benefits, close parks, reduce public library hours, restrict access to the state's Medi-Cal health-care program, and possibly eliminate the state's local redevelopment agencies.

The plan isn't just about saving money. He's trying to make a point:

Brown's widescale cuts seem designed to hit services that permeate every part of Californians' lives. The reductions to state parks and libraries, for instance, are minuscule against the backdrop of a deficit greater than $25 billion over the next 18 months. But park and library closures would surely draw the attention of middle-class families.

So would cuts to the state's two university systems, which Brown will pursue one year after Schwarzenegger singled out the state's higher-education system for protection.


The goal is, apparently, to make voters feel California's budget problems so they approve tax increases later on.

As Robert Cruickshank at Calitics writes, "Brown is obviously banking on Californians being sick of austerity and, finally seeing that there really are only two options—collapse or new revenues—that they will choose to save California. To put it mildly, this strategy is pretty fucking risky."

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